Monday, July 14, 2014

Perfection for an Imperfect Couple

On July 14, 2007, I married Tracy David Wulf. Today is July 14, 2014. We have been married for 7 years.

Why is this anniversary so special? We were married on 7/14/07. Today is 7/14/14 and is our 7th anniversary. Seven and its multiples (or perhaps multiples in general--hehe) are a theme for us apparently.

Also, seven, in several religions, is considered the symbolic number of divine completion, holiness, and sanctification.

Now, I'm not saying that Tracy and I are perfect personally, nor has our marriage been perfect. But the longer we've been married, the better we seem to read each other, to read and address each other's needs, to love each other better, more selflessly. We are not done progressing, but I'm amazed how two imperfect individuals can become one and love each other completely.

It makes me wonder how we will grow by the time we reach our 14th anniversary (7/14/21).

The Wulf Pack: Created on July 14, 2007

7 years.
84 months.
364 weeks.
2,555 days.

4 moves.
2 college graduations.

3 major surgeries.
1.5 IVF cycles (long story).
2 little boys on the way...
1 happy couple

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wulf Cub Names

One of the fun parts of expecting a baby is choosing a name. Well, for some people it is. Not so much for us...

Three things you need to know when it comes to choosing boy names: my husband's name is Tracy, he is picky, and other kids can be really mean.

With these bits of information, it won't surprise you to learn that my husband can be sensitive when it comes to boy names. Any possibly gender-neutral names are immediately thrown off the table. If he has heard of one girl ever having the name or can even envision it turning into a girl's name in the future, he rejects it. If it's still a fairly new name, he vetoes it for fear that it will turn into a girl's name some day. Most of the time, when I suggest a name, Tracy shrugs and says he has to think about it--probably wondering how kids could mock it. Other kids are mean, and his name is Tracy. Enough said about that.

But it doesn't stop there. Our kids' names also can't have a W sound in it because "it will sound weird" with Wulf, as Tracy claims. He's not a fan of alliteration apparently.

When we were dating, my roommates wrote poems using our names, but overall it never really bothered me. Since we've been married, people have asked whether we will name our kids Casey, Stacy, Macie, and/or Gracie. NO. People already occasionally call me Tracy, and we aren't going to make the situation harder by adding more options to the mix. Obviously, any rhyming with our names will not even be considered.

Most expectant parents will admit that brainstorming names also brings up memories of people who have ruined certain names. I will not share which names fit into that category for us, but needless to say, the list of possible names is shrinking before we have started.

So I ask Tracy what names he likes. What does he suggest?

I swear the man is bipolar. He strongly opposes perfectly good names for sometimes small reasons, and then the man facetiously offers names like Harry or Gray. If we have a girl in the future, he jokes that we should name her Timber.

Harry Wulf. Gray Wulf. Timber Wulf. Ha. Ha. Very funny.

Or he suggests Biblical names, but not the ones you'd usually think of. "How about Maher-shalal-hash-baz? We could call him Hash-baz for short. If it's good enough for Isaiah, it's good enough for me," he laughs.

Thanks, Tracy, you're a big help. This naming thing could be more difficult than I thought.

To be continued . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Day My Life (and My Appendix) Exploded

Five years ago today, Michael Jackson died. As much I enjoy "Thriller" and "Billy Jean," I remember June 25, 2009, more significantly because my own life changed forever. My appendix ruptured. I experienced more pain than I have ever felt before or since. I spent 12 days in the hospital from infections and complications, and I didn't fully recover until several months afterward. That day shook me. It pushed me to a state of physical helplessness and humility that made me realize that my physical strength can be taken away at a moment's notice. Little did I know then, however, how much that day truly altered my life.

Two-and-a-half years later with medical help, my husband and I finally received the happy news of pregnancy. But at six weeks, I had a feeling something was wrong. I had severe, debilitating cramps, which didn't seem like a normal pregnancy symptom. However, I ignored that feeling. At 8 weeks, the cramps got worse, and I started bleeding. When I finally saw my doctor at 9 weeks, the doctor confirmed my suspicion that I had an ectopic pregnancy caused by tissue damage from my ruptured appendix. And by that point the embryo itself had ruptured. Surprised that I could even walk on my own, the doctor immediately checked me into the hospital, and within hours I was in the operating room. My doctor told me that we had a good chance of another ectopic pregnancy occurring on the other side.

My husband and I knew it would not be smart or safe to try to conceive without using IVF and began planning accordingly. As we started our first IVF cycle, we found out that I was pregnant again with another ectopic pregnancy. Once again, I found myself in the hospital--coincidentally in the room next door to my last visit six months before.

After the first ectopic, we felt how little control we have in life. After the second, we wanted to throw our hands in the air and say, "We surrender!" As much as my appendix episode humbled me physically and mentally, the subsequent consequences of it have equally humbled me spiritually and emotionally. Eventually, we gathered our hope and strength to try again.

When we completed our IVF cycle and awaited the pregnancy test results, my mind and heart unavoidably raced through the possible outcomes--positive and negative. What if it worked? What if we have twins? What will our kids be like? What if it didn't work? What if we never are able to have our own kids? I believe in general I kept a positive attitude, but I learned long ago to have a backup plan, to anticipate the unexpected. I don't wear rose-colored glasses.

As I wondered how I would react if IVF didn't work, I realized that even after three major surgeries, multiple disappointments, and everything going horribly wrong that I was still there. I made it through, and I even made it through a stronger person than I was before. Even if the result came back negative, or even if--God forbid--something were to happen either during the pregnancy or after, somehow I would make it through the pain and sorrow and eventually find a way to be okay. I would find a way to find joy.

The wait suddenly became far less frightening. The positive result sank into my heart deeper and sweeter.

It may seem stupid to remember or bring up a traumatic event from which I have long recovered, but because of that one event, I am a different person than I was or would have been without it. My husband and I are a different couple with a different vision for our family. But because we never gave up and didn't become bitter because of our difficulties, I believe we are different for the better. As I remember that day and all that has happened since, I remember the lessons I have learned from all of it and realize that I still need and will need those lessons just as much now and probably even more in the future as I did five years ago.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Getting a Girl Pregnant Becomes a Group Effort

Normally getting pregnant is nothing like the Academy Awards, but in my case, I have a long list of people to thank for getting us here. I know we would not have been able to do this alone--physically or emotionally.

Obviously without my brilliant doctor and his staff at the fertility clinic, I would not even have the possibility of being pregnant. No fallopian tubes eliminates any chance of natural conception for us. Not only did they do their jobs, but they were kind and friendly, making an unenjoyable and painful IVF process more bearable. I am so grateful for the miracle of modern science!

I am so thankful to friends and my sister who have undergone IVF or similar infertility treatments and experiences. (And my wonderful friends who haven't experienced infertility have helped me so much as well.) Several of these friends reached out to me on Facebook, one gave me a cute IVF survival kit, and another gave me shots while Tracy was out of town! Their strength, friendship, and encouragement allowed me to glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel, regardless of the actual outcome of our treatment. They are strong, amazing women, and I am proud to stand among them as an infertility survivor.

Of course my family has been so supportive and encouraging. They (particularly my mom and sister) listened to my sobbing and my never-ending questions patiently and comforted me. Breaking the news to family was emotional and so rewarding! They have been waiting and hoping just as long, if not longer, than we have!

More than anyone, I need to thank my husband. He allowed me to complain and sympathized when I felt discomfort and pain during the entire process. Although he did indeed put up with my crazy hormonal outbursts and "shot me" pretty much every night, I am most grateful for his ability to make me laugh in these hard circumstances. Right before he gave me a shot, he would crack a joke, tickle me, or do something silly. It didn't make shot time every night any less painful or make me look forward to it, but it lightened the mood. I am so glad I married this man.

By now at the Academy Awards, the theme music would have played, and I would have been escorted off stage, but lucky for me there are no commercials. In giving credit and thanks to these people, I imply my gratitude to God above all. Our journey has been rockier than expected, and I have had moments of anger and frustration with God, but I truly believe that I am a stronger person because of my experiences and hope I will be a better mom because of it.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day! With or Without Kids

As a woman who has struggled with infertility for four and half years, I should hate Mother's Day, and at one point I did. Through time and the wise, comforting words of women who have gone through similar frustration, I have come to realize that even though I have not given birth or am not currently raising children, I am already a mother.

I have served several times in the young women program at my church. Time after time, I have learned to love those crazy teenage girls. I don't claim to love them as much as their actual mothers, but I celebrate their accomplishments, I cry when they show love for others, I beam with pride and excitement when I see the light of understanding and growth flash in their eyes, I worry about them and their futures. As I have seen pictures and updates from girls I worked with in the past on Facebook, I feel a sense of privilege that for even one second I got to teach and lead these amazing young women, some of whom are now becoming adults. I also feel sorrow and concern when I see that some have made questionable choices in their lives. Doesn't that make me a mother?

As powerful an influence that my own mother undoubtedly has had on me, I can't forget the other women who have loved me, guided me, provided examples for me, and encouraged me both growing up and in my adulthood. My friends' mothers and my leaders at church exemplified confident women who cared for children outside the walls of their homes. The time they spent with me and the time they spent serving me definitely translated into my feeling loved and supported if I needed help.

Ever since I left for college, I haven't seen my mother (and yes, my father too) as much as I would wish, especially during the difficult experiences of two emotionally and physically painful surgeries. But I was showered with the love and care of remarkable women. I can admit that without their motherly concern toward me, a non-relative, I think I would have struggled so much more than I did to recover. On one occasion when my mother visited us, she thanked the women who had become surrogate mothers and sisters to me. I too am grateful for the women in my life who have mothered me.

Even those women who don't call me sweetie, give me a warm hug, or tell me how special I am--like teachers (who hasn't called a teacher mom?), professors, co-workers, and bosses--have played a motherly role in my life. They have mentored me, guided me, corrected me, and supported my efforts that would lead to my skill development. These women too have my gratitude and respect.

Although I do not have children of my own yet, my womanhood in itself means that I am a mother. There are so many I can love, nurture, encourage, guide, and help.

So please, feel free to wish me a Happy Mother's Day!

And Happy Mother's Day to my mother and all the mothers (with or without kids) in my life!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Anti-Movie Theater

There's nothing quite like going to the movies, is there? The surround sound (wait . . . except most people have that at home now), the huge screen (uh . . . again at home), the smell of popcorn (yep, at home). At the theater, you also experience overhearing other people's annoying conversations, being stuck for two plus hours next to a smelly person who desperately needs to shower, sitting uncomfortably because you drank too much soda, and stepping on sticky floors--all for the not-so-low price of what the DVD will cost in six months when it comes out. So what exactly makes going to the movies so amazing again?

As crazy or perhaps for some even perverse as it may seem, I only go to the movies twice or maybe three times a year--by choice. I see previews for films on TV and say, "Oh, I'm excited to see that!" I count down to when certain movies come out, but then I don't go see them. I still haven't seen Frozen, Saving Mr. Banks, and Monuments Men, although I want to and will, but I just don't feel the urgency to see them the moment they premiere.

I can wait six or seven months, rent the movie on Redbox, enjoy the film eating my own snacks in my pajamas, and pause the movie if I have to use the bathroom. When I do that, I only spend $1.50 compared to $8.50 or more for my movie ticket. Look at me! Learning patience and saving money!

It all started a few years ago when we had $20 left after paying bills every month. We didn't go out to eat, we didn't splurge at all for dates, and we didn't go to the movies. Ever since then, I have struggled to bring myself to spend that money on a movie I haven't seen and don't know if I will even like.

At one time in history, particularly during the golden age of Hollywood, going to the movies provided a special occasion, complete with dressing up for a night on the town. Heck, singing along to "Let's Go to the Movies" from Annie gets me excited to go--almost. Nowadays, seeing and owning a movie is commonplace, so why would I spend that money to go the movie theater, when I could spend it to see a play or go to a museum and make it a truly special occasion?

If you still like going to the movie theater, that's fine. Just because I have become disenchanted with that environment doesn't mean I think everyone should cease from going altogether. However, I would question whether people need to go every weekend or for every single movie that comes out. Would it hurt to be a little more discerning and selective in what you see in the theaters? I'll step off my soapbox now.

My aversion to movie theaters hasn't negatively impacted me much at all. It may be unorthodox, but it works for me. What are some of your funny quirks?

Monday, February 3, 2014

14 Ways to Communicate Love

We all have our love language(s), so finding a set of gestures that would communicate love universally probably isn't possible. For me, flowers, jewelry, or lavish gifts in February don't especially make me feel loved. (If your significant other's love language includes those things, then go with those too.) However, most of these are everyday actions that clearly communicate love.

For simplicity's sake, I'm going to use he or him when talking about a significant other, simply because mine is in fact male. I don't really want to write, and I doubt you'd want to read, he/she and her/him throughout the entire post. Just know this was an acknowledged choice and the concepts here definitely apply to both women and men. No sexism here, people. Please substitute the appropriate personal pronoun for your situation.

1. Encourage and support him.
Whether written, oral, or even only action-based, provide support for the person you love in his endeavors. Leave encouraging notes in his backpack or briefcase. Cheer him on. Take a responsibility off his plate to allow him to pursue his goals.

2. Be silly and spontaneous together.
My husband excels at this one. He smacks my butt in public. He says awkward or funny things loudly in the store to make me laugh. Keep the giddy feeling alive by keeping it light and silly.

3. Participate in activities he likes.
Even if you don't like doing the things he does (e.g., playing video games) and don't do it with him often, he will likely appreciate your taking the time at least every once in a while and will likely do the same for you.

4. Compliment him.
Especially for situations when you know he wants to do well or has worked hard to accomplish a goal, acknowledge his efforts, the positive aspects of what he did, and the qualities you love about him.

5. Show affection in public as well as in private.
Hold hands and cuddle, even if you've been married "a long time" or if you feel you're far too old for PDA. Please, on behalf of the people around you, don't be disgusting, but at least show that you know and like each other.

6. Give your time.
The word love is really spelled T-I-M-E. Play games, make memories, do service together, do things together, so that when you look back on your life, you remember his integral role in it.

7. Be able to agree to disagree on the small stuff and let it go.
Chances are two separate people with individual minds will not have the exact same opinion about everything. After nearly seven years of marriage, my husband and I agree on big, important issues, but we know what areas we don't. Learn to be okay with those differences.

8. Spend time in the small talk.
Asking about and listening to the specifics of his day and sharing little funny stories that happen in yours make a huge difference.

9. Say "I love you" at least once a day.
For some this may seem obvious, and for others this may be a challenge, but it never hurt anyone to say or hear it more often.

10. Let your actions speak for you.
Although a seeming contradiction of #9, words alone do not communicate love. Perform acts of service for each other, especially meaningful service. Your words and your actions should complement each other in expressing love.

11. Resist the urge to criticize him.
The person you love is imperfect. But so are you. When you are tempted to pick at his faults, put yourself in his shoes. Would you like to be given a laundry list of things to fix about yourself? Especially by the person who claims to love you most? Focus on the amazing things you see in him, the things that made you fall in love with him in the first place.

12. When things in life go wrong, turn to each other.
Talk out problems together, even problems between the two of you, and work toward a solution together. If the two of you need help, seek the appropriate help, but always turn to each other first to show that you trust each other.

13. Take care of yourself and work on improving yourself.
No doubt he loves you how you are already, as he should. However, making an effort to take care of your body and strengthening your own talents and characteristics show your confidence and desire to be a strong partner in the relationship yoke. How does that communicate love? It suggests that you care enough about your relationship with him to contribute give the best of yourself to your life together. A simpler reason: if you don't love yourself, you won't have much to share with someone else.

14. Give meaningful gifts.
Although gifts don't usually do it for me, Tracy has surprised me with significant gestures: not significant in monetary value but significant personally. When he gives me a book I said I wanted to read, I feel he knows me. When he gets tickets to a play I said I was interested in seeing, I know he listens. Gifts can communicate love, if they are significant for him personally.

My husband and I are still working on these items, but that's the beautiful thing about this list and about love in general. We've got time to get better at it. Day after day, year after year.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why I Willingly Watch the Superbowl and Other Sports with My Husband

Like many wives, I used to mourn the loss of my husband between the months of August and March for the football and basketball seasons. Game after game. Weekend after weekend.

In a little over a week, the Superbowl will be here. But believe it or not, now I'm actually excited about it.

My 95-year-old grandmother watches football and basketball on her own. That sweet, tough old bird taught PE back in her day, married a college football player, and raised six kids: three active boys and three equally active girls. While we lived in Utah, my husband and I watched a football game at her house, and she and my husband talked about the game, both informed and passionate. When she asked me if I was enjoying the game, I explained her about my bare-bone "tolerance" of sports on TV, and she encouraged me to get involved in what my spouse likes and make it interesting for myself.

In recent years, my dread of the football and basketball seasons have become less painful as I've tried to participate in watching sports with my husband. In my own way.

I sit next to him and do something else simultaneously. I type on the computer, crochet or craft, or read, watching key replays and reacting according to his reaction.

Also, I've noticed elements in sports that I actually find interesting.

1. I love listening for odd names. Nearly every team has at least two or three players with horribly cruel first names. Athletes have either dumb or mean parents to name their sons Casanova, Haha, Shabazz, or some combination of random syllables. The name game becomes exponentially more fun if I can find a bizarre first and last name combo.

2. During the fall, audience members bundle up, and I vicariously experience a chilly autumn evening by watching fans shiver. Silly, but it helps me endure living in hot, humid Houston.

3. My husband has a penchant for anticipating and stating exactly what the announcers say or what the coaches do before they do it. (Example: Tracy says, "The coach will call a time out here." The ref blows the whistle signaling a time out. Need another? Tracy says, "The defense should have blitzed there to prevent the play-action pass." Kirk Herbstreit says, "I'm surprised the defense didn't blitz. They could have prevented the play-action pass.") I get a good laugh out of it and have even tried to develop such skills myself. The best I've been able to do is occasionally predict a holding call, but I'm getting better!

Years ago, my husband and I struck a deal. He refrains from watching games on Sunday, and in exchange we make a big deal of the Superbowl, as a whole family. He isn't allowed to shush me (or our future children), and we have tons of yummy snacks! I've enjoyed our Superbowl parties just as much as he has. Plus, most of the commercials are entertaining as well.

Against my expectations, I have actually come to enjoy sitting down with my husband sometimes to watch football and basketball in small dosages. I still don't care for sports statistics, and I doubt I will voluntarily keep abreast of sports on my own, but the point is we turned a point of conflict into something we can do together peacefully. Compromise in marriage at its best! (Now to get him to like BBC Austen adaptations.)

Happy Superbowl to everyone: football lovers or not!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Forget New Year's Resolutions: How to Set and Achieve Goals

I attended a New Year’s Eve party, and not one person admitted to making resolutions. Every single person said, “I don’t make them because I won’t keep ‘em.” Fair enough. It takes only six weeks at the gym to see that people start off enthusiastic and then give up on their resolutions.
However, I feel that most of us set goals on a fairly consistent basis, either for work or school or whatever. We may not set my goals on January 1, but we do have goals and achieve some of them. What enables us to meet some goals successfully and then fail at others?
·         Desire to reach a goal. If I don’t care about it, I won’t do it. I have to want the end result and be able to at least tolerate the steps between to get to the end result.

 ·         Practicality. How can I know if a goal is practical or not? Difficult to say. My suggestion: understand yourself and your limits and then aim a little above that. Be aware of time or other restraints or circumstances that would impede you and either mitigate them or adjust your goal accordingly. Perhaps starting out with a small, easily achievable goal would help me gain confidence and a grasp of how to handle your goal efforts in the context of everyday life. Then again perhaps diving right in and giving everything to the goal forces you to figure out how to handle it all together. Get a feel for what works for you and do it. 

·         Map of steps. For more complicated goals, I need to have a plan of attack or even a set of smaller goals. Cutting a larger goal into bite-sized pieces make the process more palatable. (Enough food metaphor for you?) What steps will lead me to the end result? Map it out and follow it.

 ·         Accountability. If I know someone will ask me about my progress, I will more likely work on that goal. During NaNoWriMo, friends and family members asked me about my progress, which made me want to be able to report only good news. 

·         Buddy system. For some goals, it helps to have someone work on a goal with me. If I forget, he or she can help me remember. If I lose desire, knowing that he or she is doing it too motivates me. 

·         Record of progress. If I work towards a goal but see no progress, it makes me feel that I wasted my effort pointlessly. However, if I monitor my progress, however small, I can see that end result inching closer. Use whatever system of recording that will motivate you. 

·         Smart support and choices. If I want to achieve a goal, I can’t surround myself with things or people who will distract me from achieving that goal. Both the choices we make and the choices of people around us could either support or sabotage efforts toward a goal.

 ·         Rewards. Progress is its own reward in some goals. In others, more tangible rewards help keep motivation up. On the other hand, for me failure is its own punishment. If you need a punishment to ward off laziness or apathy, I suggest keeping it on the lighter side to prevent self-loathing or discouragement. 

·         Overthrow of apathy. If/when apathy sets in, reevaluate the goal. Is it realistic and attainable? Am I seeing the results I want? If not, why not? What can and can’t I change?

 ·         Reflection. I honestly leave this one out most of the time, but it can be helpful for making and accomplishing future goals. What helped you succeed in this goal? What didn’t work that led to failure? What can you learn from it that you can use later or change later?

I really haven’t set any “New Year’s resolutions” for myself, mostly because I was already working on a couple of goals, and I don’t need to add to the pile and make it harder for myself just for convention.
So forget the formal title of resolutions if you want, but don’t give up on setting and at the very least trying to achieve goals. We all are always changing, developing, growing. And goals allow us to have at least some control of how we change, develop, and grow.